A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

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A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Leo Rivers » Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:51 pm

A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea




First Sniff. - The Brisk Advertisement Copy:

Before beginning I will let Mr. Red Pine introduce his own characterization of the Laṅkāvatāra:

“Think of the Laṅkāvatāra as Zen tea in a Yogācāra cup.”, (Page 15).

I received Red Pine’s translation of the Laṅkāvatāra yesterday and did an unwise thing with this epic tome of wisdom, I inhaled like a frog's snapping a fly out of the air with its tongue. This is obviously a book that is intended to be slowly melted like that 1st pat of butter you put on the pan while it's warming up for pancakes.

3 things struck me right off. And some due diligence in presenting myself as necessary. I have no academic qualifications whatsoever. And I have no meditation experience worth mentioning.

1. - Steeps Quickly

On the very same page as the self characterization of the text by the translator is this statement:

“These include the 5 Skandhas (form, sensation, perception, memory, and consciousness)”, (page 15).

That rendering into English of “samskāra” as “memory” immediately struck me as suggesting the same kind of treatment of a complex term as would be the translation of Nāmarūpa as “name and form” followed by an explanation which indicated that it was simply a the conceptual process of labeling rather than a dynamic process by which the 7th consciousness expressed its assertion of the self and then imposed its agenda by yanking something out of its context in our experience to make it a moon of the planet of our fictional self and in turn creates of it an object to which we would constantly be responding by “seeing it” and being triggered into egocentric outflows of behavior.

Memory itself has been defined before in the sense of “non-losing” and “sustaining”, or “reminding” and “paying attention to details” within the context of mindfulness. In Paul L. Griffith’s essay “memory and classical Indian Yogācāra” in the Mirror of Memory edited by Janet Gyatso, Prof. Griffiths quotes the Triṃśikābhyāṣya as saying

“Smṛti is the minds nondeprivation of an object with which it is directly acquainted.... [It is an object] which which is directly equated by means of the previous experience [object].” (Page 111)

In other words memory is seen as a factor operating within mindfulness. It is not that deep contributor of contour or responsiveness within experience that is like a coral reef built-up changing the flow of waves coming in to a beach that I usually think of what I think of when I think of the word samskāra.

2. - Naturally Sweet

In his notes on page 116, in chapter 2, note 323, he discusses if word “hostility” is short for “hostility and kindness” or not, but he goes with “hostility”. He interprets this saying

“however, the place of “hostility” here is clear when it is understood that is based on the 7th form of consciousness, or ego consciousness. And wherever the ego is involved, hostility, and not kindness is the operant emotion.”

Now, I really am going to go a little bit out on the limb here. But if you think of a parallel it might help. The translation of the word dukkha in the context of “The truth of dukkha” is generally understood to be coming under the category of Yul Brynner, (as the man in black), in The magnificent 7 saying “don't understand me so fast”.

“The truth of dukkha” in the Yogācārabhumi, Section Four, page 414, Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Vol VIII (T130-132), is explained as having 10 aspects, “change” through “being dependent”. The Tibetan teacher of the ancient school with whom I took refuge is a Buddhist would always explain that in the background there lay a kind of “pervasive suffering” that is just the nature of samsara to “fall short” even in all sorts of really good things do go on here right along with what Lisbeth Salandar referred to as “all the evil”.

I would think that just as there is a background characteristic insufficiency going on always behind the 10 aspects of suffering there is also a background hostility going on all the time that is actually distinctly different than any of its aspects or expressions as what we would call “anger”. This “ground hostility” is closer to a universal principle of cognizance which is to tear things apart by analysis, to divide things against each other, to yank things out of their context and make them submissive to our hierarchy of projected expectation. This is not “anger” hostility but it is more like the existential paranoia that creates dualistic thought.

I would really like to make a wild jump here and say that when you use the word hostility with the 7th consciousness you were using the word hostility to mean the way antagonism could be used to described any process that turns things against each other, even if it is simply to identify an object moving against the background, like seeing a bird flying in the sky. It is not the emotional overtone hostility or anger but a simple divisiveness of our nature of consciousness that turns on that pivot of the 7th consciousness which is like a magnet that reorient set everything out of its original orientation to be directed towards the central star of ego like a huge star that overturns the spin on the axis of all of its planets so they all have one face turned towards the sun the way our moon always has the same face turned towards the earth... But I'm really going on on a limb here - yet I kind of think I'm right in this particular case.


3. - Spicy

The original 1st section of the text, the so-called “108 questions and answers” has all along been a daunting section because it is hard to find any order in it. On page 44 Red Pine says

“I'm of the opinion it is merely an example of the way the repository consciousness works: you never know what seed is going to sprout next.”

On one hand that is a really functional way of looking at it, on the other hand it's a little bit too cute. I think it's not so helpful because he himself earlier on said that he thought that this presentation represented a kind of “yoga practitioner’s sense of priorities” rather than an academic organization of the material. But he never described what that presentation would look like itself in distinction to a scholarly presentation. And in this one case in which were talking about a famous problem of the book, at least a sentence of orientation would seem proper to expect, rather than throwing aside that original assertion of a alternative form of organization in the 108 questions and answers and offering up a simple surrender, the kind of secret knowledge that is implied but not demonstrated when someone, even a Buddha, responds to a question by just smiling slyly in silence.

I have been waiting for this book so long and I am so grateful to get it that I just thought I'd make these 3 points as a way to get a conversation going about it because a meal enjoyed alone really isn't the same as a meal with friends.


Red Pine, Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, Counterpoint, 2012




:namaste:

Leo Rivers http://www.madimi.com
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Will » Sat Jan 14, 2012 6:13 pm

(22) At that time Mahāmati the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva who had visited all the Buddha-lands, together with all the Bodhisattvas, rose from his seat by the power of the Buddhas, drawing his upper garment over one shoulder, placing his right knee on the ground and with folded hands, turning in the direction of the Blessed One, respectfully saluted him, and praised him with the following verses:
1. As thou reviewest the world with thy transcendental knowledge and compassion, it is to thee like an ethereal flower, of which one cannot say whether it is born or destroyed, as [the category of] being and non-being is inapplicable to it.
2. As thou reviewest all things with thy transcendental knowledge and compassion, they are to thee like visions, they are beyond the reach of intellectual grasp, as [the category of] being and non-being is inapplicable to them.
3. As thou reviewest the world with thy transcendental knowledge and compassion, it is to thee always like a dream, of which one cannot say whether it is permanent or destructible, as [the category of] being and non-being is inapplicable to it.
4. In the Dharmakāya, whose self-nature is like a vision or a dream, what is there to praise? When no thought arises as to existence or as to not-having-self-nature, then there is praise.


This is from beginning of ch. 2 of Suzuki - how about giving us a line or two from the corresponding Red Pine version?
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jan 14, 2012 6:25 pm

Leo Rivers wrote:On the very same page as the self characterization of the text by the translator is this statement:

“These include the 5 Skandhas (form, sensation, perception, memory, and consciousness)”, (page 15).

That rendering into English of “samskāra” as “memory”


This is simply misleading and wrong. The samakāra skandha is composed of all kinds of caittas, mental factors, of which smṛti, memory, is merely one. I hope that the rest of his translation is not dominated by such coarse glosses.

N
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Anders » Sat Jan 14, 2012 8:37 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Leo Rivers wrote:On the very same page as the self characterization of the text by the translator is this statement:

“These include the 5 Skandhas (form, sensation, perception, memory, and consciousness)”, (page 15).

That rendering into English of “samskāra” as “memory”


This is simply misleading and wrong. The samakāra skandha is composed of all kinds of caittas, mental factors, of which smṛti, memory, is merely one. I hope that the rest of his translation is not dominated by such coarse glosses. N


I think Saṃjñā (which here is rendered as perception, often also 'cognition') is closer to the meaning of 'memory' since this is basically the re-cognition faculty.

Rendering saṃskāra as 'memory' misses out on so much of the meaning of the word it can be flatly called 'wrong'.


In response to the OP:

Leo Rivers wrote:In other words memory is seen as a factor operating within mindfulness.


smṛti, literally 'recollection', is most commonly rendered in Buddhist English as 'mindfulness'. Backtranslating this, it comes out "In other words smṛti is seen as a factor operating within smṛti". :shrug:

It's not really clear to me if this is a quote from Red Pine or not or if you are pontificating yourself, but it is a worrying sign if Red Pine doesn't have Buddhist vocabulary nailed down to make such distinctions firmly.

Leo Rivers wrote:In his notes on page 116, in chapter 2, note 323, he discusses if word “hostility” is short for “hostility and kindness” or not, but he goes with “hostility”. He interprets this saying

“however, the place of “hostility” here is clear when it is understood that is based on the 7th form of consciousness, or ego consciousness. And wherever the ego is involved, hostility, and not kindness is the operant emotion.”


Do you know what word he is translating here?

At any rate, thanks for sharing. Been curious to see reviews of this book since it's been so eagerly awaited.
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Leo Rivers » Sat Jan 14, 2012 10:59 pm

or if you are pontificating yourself


No, I was stumbling trying to explain that Red Pine's use of the word "memory" limits the depth of the 4th skanda referred to. My bad. I am unfamiliar with it all. :oops:
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jan 14, 2012 11:07 pm

Leo Rivers wrote:
t or if you are pontificating yourself


No, I was stumbling trying to explain that Red Pine's use of the word "memory" limits the depth of the 4th skanda referred to. My bad. I am unfamiliar with it all. :oops:


Yes, limits it in a way that is entirely inaappropriate. "Formations" is better, since the samsakara skandha consists of regular formations of mental factors associated with various postive, negative, and afflicted mental states.
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Leo Rivers » Sun Jan 15, 2012 6:59 am

I can't help but append this to a discussion of Laṅkā

Dwell, bhikkhus, with yourselves as an
island, with yourselves as a refuge, with no
one else as a refuge; with the Doctrine as
an island, with the Doctrine as a refuge,
with no other [doctrine] as a refuge.

And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu dwell
with himself as an island, with himself as a
refuge, with no one else as a refuge; with
the Doctrine as an island, with the Doctrine
as a refuge, with no other [doctrine] as a
refuge?

Here (in this Teaching), bhikkhus, a
bhikkhu lives, contemplating the body in the
body, contemplating the sensations in the
sensations, contemplating the consciousness
in the consciousness, contemplating mental
objects in mental objects, ardent,
attentive, mindful, having removed
covetousness and discontent with regards to
the world. Thus, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu
dwell with himself as an island, with
himself as a refuge, with no one else as a
refuge; with the Doctrine as a refuge, with
no other [doctrine] as a refuge.

Digha-nikaya III 58, 77
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby cdpatton » Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:55 am

I don't have a copy of the book, but I have heard that it has the Ravana story at the beginning, which ought to be missing from a translation of the Gunabhadra version of the Sutra. I'd be interested in what Red Pine has to say about his source text, if anything.
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Leo Rivers » Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:31 pm

Red Pine reserves his comments largely to line by line version comparisons and a really helpful introduction to the history of the texts. As in the Heart sutra he makes credible associations one would otherwise never know.

He does not, however, really talk about structural issues like the jumbled nature of the questions or the origins of the mythological first chapter or most importantly, the different voices represented by different authors of the various sections of the book or distinguishable attitudes speaking in contradistinction to each other withing the book.

My guess is that he sincerely wants to retain the numinous quality of the text as a believably divine scripture. For instance, his "Zen tea in a Yogacara teacup" characterization of the book is itself an anachronism. Yogacara had existed in some form as a core or collection of yogacara-ish statements for 200 years at least by the time this text was translated into Chinese. The Bodhidharma of legend arrived about the same time as the translations to Chinese of the book. And "Zen" as it was transformed from C'han in Japan came later.

After all, C'han had an internal development and several faces in China. The early link of "a C'han" to the Lankavatara doesn't really invite a person today to shoe-horn their idea of ZEN into a text that obviously had a distinct internal chemistry. As stress on self-realization and the here and now moment does not translate directly into "ZEN".

I would love to hear what an actual Zen Person has to say on all this.
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Jikan » Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:56 pm

Leo Rivers wrote:After all, C'han had an internal development and several faces in China. The early link of "a C'han" to the Lankavatara doesn't really invite a person today to shoe-horn their idea of ZEN into a text that obviously had a distinct internal chemistry. As stress on self-realization and the here and now moment does not translate directly into "ZEN".

I would love to hear what an actual Zen Person has to say on all this.


1) Isn't that a Zen problem rather than a translation problem?

2) Define "actual Zen Person."

**EDIT: Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "numinous quality." I'm familiar with it from Protestant theology, but I'm not sure how that maps onto your meaning.
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Will » Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:55 pm

Leo Rivers wrote:I would love to hear what an actual Zen Person has to say on all this.


This thread should have such: http://www.zenforuminternational.org/vi ... =17&t=7518
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby cdpatton » Tue Jan 17, 2012 12:09 am

Leo Rivers wrote:Red Pine reserves his comments largely to line by line version comparisons and a really helpful introduction to the history of the texts. As in the Heart sutra he makes credible associations one would otherwise never know.

He does not, however, really talk about structural issues like the jumbled nature of the questions or the origins of the mythological first chapter or most importantly, the different voices represented by different authors of the various sections of the book or distinguishable attitudes speaking in contradistinction to each other withing the book.

My guess is that he sincerely wants to retain the numinous quality of the text as a believably divine scripture. For instance, his "Zen tea in a Yogacara teacup" characterization of the book is itself an anachronism. Yogacara had existed in some form as a core or collection of yogacara-ish statements for 200 years at least by the time this text was translated into Chinese. The Bodhidharma of legend arrived about the same time as the translations to Chinese of the book. And "Zen" as it was transformed from C'han in Japan came later.

After all, C'han had an internal development and several faces in China. The early link of "a C'han" to the Lankavatara doesn't really invite a person today to shoe-horn their idea of ZEN into a text that obviously had a distinct internal chemistry. As stress on self-realization and the here and now moment does not translate directly into "ZEN".

I would love to hear what an actual Zen Person has to say on all this.


So, he doesn't make any note of the fact that he has inserted the "first chapter" where it was missing from the version he is supposedly translating? I really wish translators would be transparent and open about what they are doing with these texts. Sure, ordinary non-language specialists are not interested in the minutiae of translation, but this is kind of an important revision he has taken it upon himself to do and then advertise that he's translating Gunabhadra. It just begs the question of what else has he changed. Oh, well. Par for the course these days, I guess.

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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Leo Rivers » Tue Jan 17, 2012 1:13 am

So, he doesn't make any note of the fact that he has inserted the "first chapter" where it was missing from the version he is supposedly translating? I


Actually, he mentions most of these issues in passing, and of course this is a book meant include as many readers as possible - it's not an academic edition. But a chapter with a section of more orientation on these issues, maybe as a "afterword" might have really helped. After all - this is the only viable Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra that will be available to me, (or most non specialist readers like me), for the rest of my life.

And I apologize for the "Zen persons" remark" - it sounds off to me now - it wasn't a denigration. What I meant to say was that I think that only a Zen practitioner could read this text and say "yes, that is what I know as Zen being addressed in this text".
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby cdpatton » Tue Jan 17, 2012 1:38 am

Leo Rivers wrote:After all - this is the only viable Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra that will be available to me, (or most non specialist readers like me), for the rest of my life.


I wouldn't be so sure about that. I'll get around to it at some point. :tongue:

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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Will » Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:26 am

Will wrote:
(22) At that time Mahāmati the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva who had visited all the Buddha-lands, together with all the Bodhisattvas, rose from his seat by the power of the Buddhas, drawing his upper garment over one shoulder, placing his right knee on the ground and with folded hands, turning in the direction of the Blessed One, respectfully saluted him, and praised him with the following verses:
1. As thou reviewest the world with thy transcendental knowledge and compassion, it is to thee like an ethereal flower, of which one cannot say whether it is born or destroyed, as [the category of] being and non-being is inapplicable to it.
2. As thou reviewest all things with thy transcendental knowledge and compassion, they are to thee like visions, they are beyond the reach of intellectual grasp, as [the category of] being and non-being is inapplicable to them.
3. As thou reviewest the world with thy transcendental knowledge and compassion, it is to thee always like a dream, of which one cannot say whether it is permanent or destructible, as [the category of] being and non-being is inapplicable to it.
4. In the Dharmakāya, whose self-nature is like a vision or a dream, what is there to praise? When no thought arises as to existence or as to not-having-self-nature, then there is praise.


This is from beginning of ch. 2 of Suzuki - how about giving us a line or two from the corresponding Red Pine version?


Since my copy arrived today, I will answer my own question. Here is Red Pine's version of verses 1 & 2, page 43:

1. Like a flower in the sky / the world neither ceases nor arises / in the light of your wisdom and compassion / it neither is nor isn't
2. Transcending mind and consciousness / all things are like illusions / in the light of your wisdom and compassion / they neither are nor aren't


He puts his notes & comments in a grey background on pages facing the translation.

Only begun to dip into it...
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Beatzen » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:06 pm

Red Pine included that mistranslation as "memory" in his translation/commentary on the Heart Sutra. Just thought I'd mention it because this thread made me go back to the library and check out if he repeated the same error in another instance.
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Beatzen » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:20 pm

Leo Rivers wrote:My guess is that he sincerely wants to retain the numinous quality of the text as a believably divine scripture. For instance, his "Zen tea in a Yogacara teacup" characterization of the book is itself an anachronism. Yogacara had existed in some form as a core or collection of yogacara-ish statements for 200 years at least by the time this text was translated into Chinese. The Bodhidharma of legend arrived about the same time as the translations to Chinese of the book. And "Zen" as it was transformed from C'han in Japan came later.


Red Pine can't possibly think that he's an authority on Zen. He hasn't paid his dues. Four years in a monastery does not a master make.

...In retrospect, after writing what you just read, I wondered if there are any authorities on zen. But I need to give alan watts a rest for the time being.

By self-realization I'm assuming you are reffering to Kensho.

I practice Zen myself, and I have a hard time reconciling the chosen emphasis on the "aimlessness" Suzuki Roshi talked about (which I think is supplemental to the development of sati) with any "Zen person" who stresses any objective goal in practice. I practice in the soto lineage, so I hear the expression "enlightenment is the practice"

I guess when it comes to Zen, you have to get yourself familiar with the doctrine of original enlightenment to really understand what that means. For westerners it's hard because we've inherited cultural mythologies like "the garden of eden." and "original sin".
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Will » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:22 pm

In Porter's defense, he avoided translating the Lanka for many years because he could not understand Gunabhadra's Chinese. It followed the Sanskrit syntax, which makes a profound text many times harder to understand, much less translate into English. The fact that only one other translation has appeared since 1932, suggests it was & is a very hard nut to crack.
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Malcolm » Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:01 pm

Will wrote:In Porter's defense, he avoided translating the Lanka for many years because he could not understand Gunabhadra's Chinese. It followed the Sanskrit syntax, which makes a profound text many times harder to understand, much less translate into English. The fact that only one other translation has appeared since 1932, suggests it was & is a very hard nut to crack.



If you don't know Tibetan or Sanskrit, then yes it could be.

The Tibetan version reads very straightfowardly though.
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Re: A 1st look: Red Pine’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as Jasmine Tea

Postby Will » Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:36 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Will wrote:In Porter's defense, he avoided translating the Lanka for many years because he could not understand Gunabhadra's Chinese. It followed the Sanskrit syntax, which makes a profound text many times harder to understand, much less translate into English. The fact that only one other translation has appeared since 1932, suggests it was & is a very hard nut to crack.



If you don't know Tibetan or Sanskrit, then yes it could be.

The Tibetan version reads very straightfowardly though.


Good for Chos-grub, but he was translating from the Chinese of Gunabhadra, not the Sanskrit - why? - beats me. Also I wrote "Sanskrit syntax", but Porter wrote "Sanskrit word sequence" - if that makes any difference. A later Tibetan version by Anonymous is from the Sanskrit.
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